It’s exciting when you discover in exploratory conversation and through market research that a customer has something unique and compelling. This was the case with a software client of ours who offered telemedicine services.
Before finding us, they worked with a lead generation company that successfully offered up a lot of demos to the sales team. After a year of this? No sales. Cold-calling volume was tremendous — often 3-4 meetings were scheduled weekly with benefits directors in self-insured companies who struggled with escalating costs. They were successful in reaching the CEO, but always got pushed down to the HR group after an initial conversation.
The lead generation company thought they were successful, as the client measured cost per lead and scheduled demos as their KPIs. But after a year the client was not happy despite the lead generation vendor delivering what they said they would. On one level, the prospecting campaign was working. So, why no revenue?
We immediately identified the problem and came up with a solution:
This software company did not understand what business they were in and how they impacted the financial picture for their clients.
The sales team thought they were supposed to give prospects a successful demo.
A core message platform exercise clearly identified in a positioning statement what the company really did, for whom and why it mattered.
This isn’t rarefied IP. Almost every agency in the world has some sort of structured method (often branded as a proprietary process) for distilling a core proposition centered on:
• Who you serve (target market)
• What you offer/Who you are (frame of reference)
• Why, when triangulated with the other three W’s here, you’re the best at it (differentiation)
• Why your differentiation claim is valid (justification)
To get there, these are the kinds of questions you must answer:
• What are the core market opportunities as determined by a product/market diagnostic?
• How do you segment opportunities into executable, discrete campaign options (industry, geography, business challenge, etc.)
• SWOT analysis: Which campaigns are likely to be most successful?
This all gets you to more specific questions, whose answers will differ by segment and campaign:
• What are the most significant executive conversations and greatest buying motivations for your prospects in each segment?
• How can you positively impact the situation faced by the prospects in your segments?
• Can you prove it?
• How do you justify your value claim?
• What are the critical pain points faced by the prospect? What are his or her aspirations?
• What is your proven solution in regards to that situation?
• How do you typically manage conversation at the needs discovery and proposal stages?
• What low-cost or complimentary assessment offer will bring dimension and value to the prospect?
• What editorial (not sales) content will bring your unique perspective to the market?
In the case of our friends at the telemedicine company, the target market was the CEO/CFO who runs self-insured companies who struggled with escalating benefits costs caused by employee absenteeism. We had to shift the perception that our client merely served companies that wanted to improve their benefits package.
Frame of reference was also important. Many telemedicine companies had entered the market, as is common in the software industry once money is made from technology innovation. The answer to the “Who We Are” didn’t need to change. It was still easy enough to anchor a discussion by telling people that this was a telemedicine company. A frame of reference gives your prospect an easy identifier to wrap their head around. (Tip: Avoid jargon and fancy talk here. Plainer is better.)
Differentiation followed the frame of reference: Our client increased profits by lowering the cost of claims borne by self-insured companies because employees took less personal and sick days.
All this said, the justification part took minimal work. The lead generation company that our client had previously worked with already supported a campaign messaging strategy that successfully communicated how telemedicine lowered benefit costs and should be offered as an enhanced benefit to help employees as well as the employer.
Once this was clear, the sales campaign approach shifted. CEOs started to respond. The sales team was no longer invited to attend the initial call and a demo was not offered until the CEO was ready to further explore the concept because they agreed with the value exchange.
Our cost per lead skyrocketed, fewer meetings and demos were scheduled, but we closed a deal in the first few months after making this shift. The point is to measure what really matters: Cost per lead is important to eCommerce and payday loan companies, but not the right yardstick for our work.
I will eat my hat if you can find a lead generation company that offers that entire suite of services to do what I did for that company. If you’re considering a lead generation company that approaches you with claims like, “We get you sales-qualified leads and guarantee you at least two meetings each week,” you’re almost certainly looking at critical gaps in strategy and execution.
If you have a major brand name like Oracle, HP or IBM, the dynamic is quite different. You can get away with pure lead generation because you have 50+ years and many billions in brand equity. The prospect targets know your company and the marketing department provides more content and process approaches than anyone could ever need.
Otherwise, you’re going to need a lot more than leads — stuff like deep positioning/messaging work and outstanding people/processes to convert those leads into revenue.